How to battle distraction and maintain consistency in a crisis

distracted studentHaving spent the better part of the last month in social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, we are all faced with additional distractions from the media, environmental changes, and perhaps more time with family members in our current workspace than ever before. Whether facing personal fears, trying to maintain a sense of “normal”, or directly dealing with the effects of the crisis, it’s easy to become distracted and lose sight of our goals.

John C. Maxwell says, “a distraction is something that pulls us away from progress and confuses us.” Further, he notes that a distraction is the opposite of traction and identifies three main types of distractions during a crisis: mind wandering, negative thinking, and uncertain anxiety. In this post, we offer clarification on each of those three distractions and ways you can combat them in your efforts to regain traction toward your writing goals.

Mind wandering

Mind wandering is when we spend time thinking about what could happen instead of focusing on what is happening. Believe it or not, this can be a distraction even when thinking about positive things. For example, have you ever started to plan a project that you were excited about but couldn’t seem to get anything started, much less finished?

This is what I like to call the squirrel effect (or my overly energetic hamster in my head). I come up with all these great ideas, but can’t seem to focus enough to get them done. So how do we address this issue?

  • Do only one thing at a time
  • Focus more on the solution than the problem
  • Focus on your five senses
  • Establish a reward system for task completion
  • Create a routine schedule

Negative thinking

Maybe you’re more distracted by negative thinking or feeling that everything that could go wrong is going wrong. It’s easy to fall into the trap of what I like to call the “snowball effect” where when we face one challenge and let it overwhelm our thoughts, the next one is added to the first, making the overall problem even bigger, and then it seems as though each new problem comes faster and bigger than the last until we’re buried in an avalanche of negative thought.

If you’re facing distractions from negative thinking, here are some ways to address them:

  • Put things into perspective
  • Avoid negative media and news
  • Accept that you don’t have to have all the answers
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Maintain a gratitude journal

Uncertain anxiety

The third common distraction is uncertain anxiety. In this case, the fear of the unknown amplifies other fears. For example, if you were already concerned about finding time to write, not knowing when you will be able to return to your office or writing group can make your fear of failure that much greater.

So what can be done to address uncertain anxiety?

  • Focus only on what is in your control
  • Practice deep abdominal breathing
  • Reflect on past successes
  • Seek support from those you trust
  • Help someone else


Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.